An interview with Connector Alumna Ilina Stanimirova
By: Yonnie Pang
Last updated: Thursday, 21 October 2021
Ilina is a University of Sussex graduate and has completed a degree in Media and Communications. As a Student Connector since July 2020, Ilina has provided valuable input to development of the Business School Assessment Criteria project and the Connector Buddy Scheme. She looks forward to entering the Media industry and highlights the opportunities the Connector Programme has given her to develop her communications skills.
How did you get involved in the Connector Programme?
I became a Student Connector at the beginning of July 2020 and since then, I have worked in many different roles within the Connector Programme. Originally, I heard about the programme through a friend who was working with the Widening Participation team. They told me that I should apply for these new roles that were being advertised as part of the Student Connectors. I applied for a couple of roles and went to an interview in January 2020 and another in March 2020. Unfortunately, in those instances I did not get the role, however, I was still in the Connector community. Then, in the summer, Maddie Taylor reached out to me via e-mail and told me they were looking for Connectors to work on a project for the Business School. I was very happy to hear from her and I accepted her offer to work on the project.
2. What are the different projects and activities you have done with the programme? What did you learn/develop/gain from your Connector experiences?
My first Student Connector work was for the University of Sussex Business School Assessment Criteria project. We were a team of six connectors and seven members of staff, and we worked together throughout the summer to review and co-create a better, clearer, and more accessible assessment criteria for the students. As the summer was ending and the new academic year was starting, our project came to an end as well. Throughout our seven weeks, we fulfilled our objectives – we wrote new marking descriptors, created a poster with the meaning of every grade and we created an animation explaining the requirements and standards for achieving a good grade. I took a part in all these activities and also provided some extra work on the communications part of the project by writing two articles about my role and our work for the internal communication channels of the University. By this point, my role had helped to improve my communication and teamwork skills, and my media production skills.
When the new academic year started, I was still in the pool of Student Connectors and in October, we piloted the Connector Buddy project. The aim of the project was to be a mentor to newly hired Student Connectors and provide a four-week training for them at the beginning of their role. As I was now an experienced Connector, I got to lead buddy groups and help new Connectors settle into their roles. The Buddy Connector project has grown tremendously over time with the expansion of the Connector Programme. It became more professional, and the buddy groups kept growing. I am so thankful I got to meet and be of help to so many Student Connectors and this improved my organisational skills, made me a leader, and significantly improved my confidence as well.
In the winter of 2020, my line manager from the Business School Assessment Criteria project came to me and a couple of my other Connector colleagues with an exciting proposal to do primary research for an academic case study regarding our project. This project involved myself and two more Connectors, recording interviews with our summer team about the project and the experience of collaboration between students and staff. This was an amazing opportunity for me to develop my research skills in a different setting. I am extremely grateful I got to take part in the research and soon, we will have two academic case studies published in journals.
In the summer of 2021, I became part of the Training Connectors Team and I worked on creating a Communications Training session for future Student Connectors. I did independent research and created a presentation that would give the basic knowledge and details about how to work with communications as a Student Connector. This project polished my media, communications, research and presentation skills and I got to create my very own training that would impact the induction process of many future Connectors to come.
Throughout all this time, I also got to take part in extra opportunities provided by the programme – recruitments events, focus groups and socials. On our Connector summer social, I had the opportunity to speak with Susan Smith about our Business School Assessment Criteria project, and also got to meet our wonderful team of Connectors in person. These extra opportunities have all helped me develop strong teamwork, communication, media and organisational skills and the Connector Programme has given me the confidence and skills to keep growing professionally.
3. What are you going to do next?
I am now officially a University of Sussex graduate with a Bachelors’ degree in Media and Communications and I am excited for the future. I have a production/post-production media assistant internship lined up for the summer where I will be managing the social media channels of a Brighton-based commercial company as well as being a runner on their film sets. Additionally, I am a volunteer producer at the Brighton radio station Platform B where I am hoping to do some practical sound work. Along with my studies, my Student Connector role has definitely given me experience for these roles as I have written a few articles for my projects and I have worked on an animation, which has helped my media and communications abilities. After that, I am planning to go to my home country, Bulgaria, and have a long rest away from work for a month or two. I would love to go into the professional field of media, and I want to travel and see more of Europe and the rest of the world.
My work as a Student Connector has given me a lot of employability skills and many great experiences and friends. I am forever grateful for what the programme has given me, and I am wishing it only expands and grows and keeps being successful in impacting students in a positive way.
The whole of the Connector Programme wants to say a huge thank you to Ilina for everything she has contributed to our Programme, and wish her all the very best for the future!
Find out how you can develop your skills and prepare for post-university life by participating in The Connector Programme and the Spirit of Sussex Award, by visiting our websites.